Notes From The Margin

July 29, 2008

Venezuela Presses Its Claim – The Propaganda War Starts

We have tracked two stories on Venezuela’s claim of Barbados’ waters in the Venezuelan media today. The tone of one is actually quite strident.

The first article:

NGO reports Barbados is bidding oil blocks in Venezuelan waters

The government of Barbados has launched an oil and gas bid for 26 offshore blocks, two of which are allegedly located in part in Venezuelan waters, claimed on Monday Aníbal Martínez, head of non-governmental organization Frente Nacional Pro Defensa del Petróleo Venezolano (National Front for the Defense of Venezuelan Oil).

Martínez said that the government of Barbados put 26 oil and gas blocks for tender stretching more than 70,000 square kilometers. He added that there are two blocks in the bid, called Botton Bay and Crane Bay, 70 percent of whose area would be in Venezuelan waters.

“This amounts to an area of 5,200 square kilometers. It is a hostile act on the part of Barbados, and we have to be on alert. Even if it was one square centimeter, we cannot let this to happen,” said the Venezuelan oil expert.

The second article is a follow up

Claims of sale of oil licenses by Barbados

Venezuelan Minister of Energy and Petroleum Rafael Ramírez reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in possession of the evidence attesting to the sale by Barbados of licenses for oil drilling in Venezuelan maritime areas.

“We took the official letter to the appropriate channels; the Foreign Ministry is working on it. This has been the case in the past, where countries, well, awarded licenses for areas that are beyond their jurisdiction and by talking, directly speaking, things are eventually placed where they should be,” said the official.

What will also be interesting to watch is the reaction of Caracas to Barbados claims to the outer continental shelf. What is legally Barbados’ southernmost waters Venezuela considers to be its exit to the Atlantic (hence the Trinidad/Venezuela treaty) However Venezuela never made a treaty with Barbados, and Barbados has no reason to negotiate one as it is a small slice of their territory. The Venezuela/Trinidad treaty has no impact on Barbados or Guyana, so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

It is unlikely that this will go away.  Further Barbados has little reason to take on Venezuela’s claims other than Venezuela has the means to agressively enforce its claims on the area by force of arms.

Hopefully this will not go that far.

Marginal

How Trinidad Recognised Venezuela’s Claim to Most Of Guyana’s Land

Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

Marginal Picks Up His Pen – Venezuela’s Claim of Barbados’ Waters

June 16, 2008

Marginal Picks Up His Pen – Venezuelas Claim of Barbados’ Waters


After much thought we’ve decided to come out of retirement to blog on the subject of Venezuela’s claim of Barbados’ waters. This is not a full re-opening of NFTM but we felt that given our history of blogging on Venezuela and it’s territorial claims that we might be able to provide some clarity on this issue. This article is freely reproducible (once the source is attributed). In fact we would ask that given the potential seriousness of the claim that members of the blogosphere and other media propogate this story.


Marginal

Like Barbados Free Press we saw the story today in the Venezuelan publication PetroleumWorld entitled “Barbados’ Troubled Waters”

The new government of Barbados opened the bidding process for rights to offshore blocks for oil & gas exploration on Monday and will close it on September 30. The winner announcement will be made on Nov 20th. More than 20 companies were present this week in the bid kick off, including among others, Exxon, Gazprom, Lukoil Shell, BHP Billiton of Australia, Hess Oil Company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Marathon Oil and Murphy Oil, all of the United States, StatoilHydro, Petro-Canada, and Petrobras from Brazil. However, there is an issue that the IOC’s perhaps have not taken in account, that is that two of the block are in venezuelan waters, the Bottom Bay blocks Ad I and Ad II. We expect that the venezuelan government will issue a diplomatic note to the government of Barbados asking for clarification and the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA will issue a warning to the OIC’s on the issue.

The two blocks in question are the two southernmost blocks that are up for bid (Highlighted in red in the illustration). Venezuela’s claim rests on two pillars

1. It’s claim to approximately half of Guyana’s land area.

Venezuela claims everything west of the Essequibo river, the historical reasons for this can be found in our post. Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

2. Venezuela’s Maritime Treaty with Trinidad.

In 1990 Venezuela and Trinidad agreed a treaty delineating their maritime boundary. This treaty can be found on line HERE.  This treaty allowed the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s offshore oil resources. However this treaty had two unforeseen impacts. First it tacitly recognised Venezuela’s claims on half of Guyana, and secondly it pushed Trinidad’s territorial claims north which is what led to the Maritime border dispute between Barbados and Trinidad. The impact of this can be seen in our post How Much Gas Does Trinidad Have? Indeed the main sticking point in the negotiations was the Trinidadian position that Barbados should recognise the 1990 treaty. The UNLOS council held that two countries could not bind a third without it’s consent and hence the 1990 treaty had no impact on Barbados.

The maritime boundaries are currently as seen in the diagram below. The purple line indicates Trinidad’s initial boundary claim and the brown line indicates the claim they put forward to the UNLOS Council. The green line represents the final decision of the UNLOS Council.

The result of the UNLOS is that the 1990 boundary between Venezuela and Trinidad extends into what is (and always was) legally Barbados’ waters.

Venezuela is now seeking to exercise a claim in an area that it has no right to claim. The waters under discussion can ONLY be Venezuelas if you accept that

1. Half of Guyana is actually Venezuela.

2. That two countries (Venezuela and Trinidad) can commit a third and fourth countries (Barbados and Guyana)  to some form of agreement or treaty without consulting them and without their agreement.

In short, the Venezuelan claim is baseless.

Marginal

Other interesting information on this topic.

International Law Environment by Professor Robert Volterra

Venezuela and Bird Island

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Bird Island Again! – Grenada in Maritime Boundary Dispute With Venezuela.

April 15, 2008

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish….

It’s been a year since NTFM first debuted in the blogosphere, in that time we have done 198 posts which have been seen by 42,000 visitors, we have logged some 650 comments and unfortunately we’ve also dealt with 10,000 emails of spam. Small numbers perhaps in comparison to Barbados Underground or Barbados Free Press, but we think that we have established our own following and we’ve also established a reputation as a quality blog with high standards.

It’s been an interesting ride, that has taught us much. The search for quality articles has led us down some interesting paths and turned up some surprising stories. We are particularly proud of the work we’ve done on the whole Venezuela issue as it relates to the Caribbean. We remain deeply concerned that not enough is being done by the mainstream media to educate Barbadians about our South American neighbour.

We started a blog in large part because we were concerned about what was being said about Barbados in the blogosphere. Based on what some very biased people were saying, it would be very easy to equate Barbados with Zimbabwe. That is not the Barbados we know, the country we know and live in may not be perfect but it’s a far cry from what is portrayed on BFP and to a lesser extent BU. A dermatologist following their approach would describe someone with acne as having flesh eating skin cancer. We felt there was an unfilled space for balance and thoughtfulness, a space that over the last year we have tried (with uneven results we admit) to fill. We freely admit that there is an important role for Barbados Underground and Barbados Free Press in ensuring democracy and freedom in Barbados, we may disagree with their methods but we believe that they are truly motivated by good intentions and that in the long run they are a healthy addition to the Barbados social scene, we wish them well.

However after a year, we have found the demands of running a daily posting blog difficult to meet. In that regard we have considerable respect for David over at BU and even the BFP crew. Given the demands of our day to day lives we find that we can no longer devote the time to NFTM that will maintain the standard that we want to have.

In short NFTM has had it’s day. We have to admit, it’s difficult to put down something you have carried for a year, but it is far better to go out with style than to dribble off into obscurity.

To our well wishers thank you for your kind comments, to our critics… when you think about it, you’ll come around to our opinion 😉

Farewell

Marginal

Marginal puts down his editorial pen.

March 28, 2008

David, We will have to disagree on the 100 days point!

We are great fans of Barbados Underground, we find their articles though provoking and well reasoned. We don’t always agree with them, but that’s what makes the blogosphere interesting. David served up an interesting article this week:Barbados Needs National Energy Policy, NOW we agree with the headline and the main point of the article, that in a global economic environment we need a realistic energy policy with a strong emphasis on renewable resources, however we will have to agree to disagree with his subsidiary point.

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) pledged to Barbadians that within the first 100 days of assuming the reigns of government, it would roll-out several major initiatives. Our commonsense, which has been honed over the years through observation, tells us that the pledge was part of a gimmick which political parties are expected to engage at election time. It should be obvious that a political party in opposition is not equipped to deliver on promises made, simply because it is not in the obvious position of government to efficiently plan and allocate resources. The BU household continue to be amazed at the frenzy which is demonstrated by our educated public concerning trivial matters, whenever we have elections. Following the script to the letter, the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has reminded the government of its 100 day promise, we listened to Senator Liz Thompson doing so with her usual eloquence in the Senate yesterday.
We commented on the post, to the effect that the “100 Days” was a political gimmick that worked and that it was now fair game for the opposition to use to attack the government. We don’t think it’s the only reason why the DLP won (or even the main reason), but it was a central plank in their platform.
However our real reason goes deeper than that……
The “100 days” was a political gimmick that was packaged for consumption by the electorate. However read more deeply it was the DLP’s statement of “THIS IS WHERE OUR PRIORITIES ARE” and even if you did not believe they were capable of delivering it in the 100 days, (as we think most people with common sense felt) the idea of a time frame communicated that there was a real plan behind the statement.
An opposition party is not in the position of a ruling government in terms of access to information and allocation of resources, however they have a luxury that the Government does not:
Time.
An opposition has time to consult with stakeholders, time to sound out opinions, time to float ideas in informed circles, to create and construct a plan. They also have the unmitigated luxury of doing this in an environment where there is absolutely no pressure to implement. These two things, a sitting government does not have (As Dr. Estwick has found out with Greenland). In this case the DLP had 14 years to craft its agenda for governance.
We think that the Thompson administration should be accountable for its 100 day agenda. If it can’t be done in 100 days, when can we expect it? A year? two years? If the first orders of business are delayed what about the elements of your manifesto that were not in the first 100 days? We should not let it fall quietly by the wayside.
We agree that a discerning eye should be cast over the ABC Highway expansion project and it’s conduct, however we think that the level of scrutiny should be applied to this administration, the principle at stake is simply too important.
Until we hold our politicians accountable for their words and actions we will get the government we deserve.
Marginal

March 9, 2008

David Thompson Praises Owen Arthur- BFP Criticises David Thompson….Coincidence?

 

It was bound to happen sooner or later, BFP turned savage on David Thompson. (Just after Mr. Thompson praised his predecessor)  It would seem that BFP is discovering that politicians are politicians. (Particularly in Barbados)

The whole tale in three parts….

Nation News – Well Done!

BFP: Barbados Cabinet Ministers Free To Accept “Gifts” From Persons Wanting Government Approvals Or Contracts

(Note The BFP  article is published same day as the Nation Article)

Our take on the matter…(Published in June LAST YEAR) “Prime Minister Owen Arthur, and the Opposition Democratic Labour Party led by David Thompson, who was once the Minister of Finance, are virtual ideological twins”

What makes Barbados fortunate is that both Mr. Thompson and Mr. Arthur are quite good as politicians go, and while they may both talk left their actions are decidedly centrist. But anyone expecting fundamental change from either party is likely to be disappointed.

Marginal

February 7, 2008

Freedom is a funny thing….

“I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight for your right to say it”

Voltaire 

Over the last few days we’ve had quite a few posts about freedom of expression, and in reflecting on this period we’ve had to remark that freedom is a funny thing. Having a blog gives the writer the power to say anything, really with very little chance of having to face any consequences for having said it. Now in some ways this is great, corruption that would only be hinted at in public fora (or never mentioned at all) can be exposed for all to see. Lots of quiet little back room deals may find themselves subject to public exposure. Democracy is generally strengthened by this.

The corollary of having freedom of expression is that you may hear things that you don’t agree with. Things that you may find repugnant. And the funny thing is that there are many people for whom “Freedom of Expression” means that they can say what they want and anyone else can say what they want too as long as they agree with them.  That’s not freedom, that’s swapping one yoke for another.

We have taken a great deal of pressure over the past week or two to unlink from three new blogs that have been established by (we presume) supporters of the BLP. Despite, what many of our passing commenters may say, we have never set out to be a “political blog” and we don’t have any particular brief for these three new blogs. We see the ongoing campaign to silence them as a step in the wrong direction. We see a larger issue here that we feel is worth fighting for. We have been delisted from the two major Barbados blogs in the blogosphere, we have received several emails (some of it public, most of it private) with various levels of abuse.

We think we are doing the right thing.

The vindictiveness of the response makes us sure that we are doing the right thing.

We have also received expressions of support  and we thank those that have sent them.

Notes From The Margin is not going anywhere.

Marginal

February 6, 2008

Why NFTM Links to the Three New Blogs….

I posted this as comment, but I’m placing it as a post to fully ventillate the issue.

If they represent an attempt by BLP supporters to CONSTRUCTIVELY engage the blogosphere, I believe that is worth encouraging. At the moment, the blogosphere is for the most part a group of persons who all say the same thing. I believe that blogs with a different view will enhance the blogosphere. Yes I am concerned that they have a connection to BFPE, for this reason they are “on probation” If they devolve into racist talk or threats then they are off the blogroll. I am not linking to any site that contains either death threats or racisim. To the point where I warned Cat Piss when he started to go down a race related line.

What happens in the blogosphere right now is that dissenting opinion is shouted down, blocked or smothered, criticism is seen as a personal attack, and the biggest blog BFP indulges known party hacks who use information that I know to be wrong. That’s right, they use OUTRIGHT LIES to further their own political ends and BFP is complicit in that.

Further, the lack of checking of information means that innocent people have their reputation smeared on a stage that carries a global audience. People who have done nothing wrong, in many cases who have done years of service get tarred and feathered because BFP wants to increase it’s number of visitors. I’m not saying that everyone accused on BFP is innocent, some need to be accused, but that is what makes the smears of the innocent worse.

I support freedom of speech and expression however I believe that this freedom comes with a responsibility to
use it correctly.

I consider linking to the new blogs to be an effort to foster diversity of opinion. There are a number of denizens of the blogosphere that have openly demonstrated that they do not want that diversity to happen.

Marginal.

February 4, 2008

Notes From The Margin Censored by Both Barbados Political Blogs

Well it was bound to happen at some point. The two most forthright advocates of freedom of expression on the net have censored another blog.  Notes From The Margin would appear to be banned from Barbados Underground (my comments appear to be blocked) and Barbados Free Press.

Yes we on the margin have been harshly critical of these blogs (particularly Barbados Free Press) and we have resisted all sorts of comments about our listing three BLP associated blogs bajan free press, De Stand Pipe, Cat Piss And Pepper. While we were not really surprised by BFP’s actions we have to admit that we are more than a little disapointed in Barbados Underground and their creators. It is however their decision and we accept it.

We do have to say, that as much as these two blogs which are known for their unrelenting criticism of others, it is ironic that their response to the expression of a differing opinion is to resort to censorship. It’s a shame really.

We do hope that they will reconsider their decision but Notes From The Margin will continue in much the same vein as it did before weather or not they choose to link to us.

Marginal

January 31, 2008

Economic Advice From Prof. Howard

Local Economist Prof. Michael Howard who has become a regular commentator on Government’s economic policies today wrote an guest column in the daily Nation offering his views on the way forward for Prime Minister Thompson’s government and Owen Arthur’s stewardship.

His comments on former PM’s Arthur are interesting:

Whether he knew it or not, Arthur was also influenced by Rostow’s misleading “catch-up” notion of Barbados becoming a “developed country”. We may have already reached there since we are now in Rostow’s stage of “high mass consumption”.

Arthur’s expansionary policies eventually led to “overheating” of the Barbadian economy. Overheating was caused by heavy expenditure on the World Cup, the bunching of lumpy capital projects, and high levels of conspicuous consumption. The positive aspects of overheating were increased employment and economic growth.

The Barbados model has now reached a critical turning point where serious decisions have to be made to reduce high levels of spending, maintain capital controls, and curb illegal immigration. Without capital controls the exchange rate will come under significant pressure, as the economy faces a possible recession.

( If you want a quick overview of Rostow’s Theory click HERE.)

The point on the removal of capital controls we have spoken about on the margin already. It does seem to be a judgement call. As we said in our post “Capital Account Liberalisation – Good or Bad? ” it seems that no one REALLY knows what will happen when capital controls come off. Prof. Howards view that the world economic situation is less favourable MAY be right.

Interestingly his other points include tax policy:

It’s likely that it may happen in a cosmetically changed format and Thompson may claim that it was his idea! Arthur’s tax policy seemed logical to us on the margin, and it favoured gradual incremental change over a period of years rather than sharp adjustments. In lowering the income tax rate he was able to address the issues with the NIS pension fund without the population feeling poorer. With his policies he began moving the economy away from income taxes which inhibit investment and towards VAT. Arthur had indicated publicly on more than one occasion that he considered moving to one tax rate for both onshore and offshore sectors to be desirable.
On the issue of VAT Prof. Howard had this to say.
We on the margin agree with the professor on this point, and are concerned that once exceptions are made to the VAT tax, it becomes easier to make further exceptions. “You zero rated sports equipment so why not this?” Also the more zero ratings the more loopholes there are for abuse. (Are rally cars sports equipment? How about clothes to train in?) The objective is socially laudable, but we believe that the Government should find another way of achieving it.
 .
We aren’t sure that we agree with Prof. Howard on one of his later points on the cost of living.

.

“Reliance on imported food is a major cause of the high cost of living in Barbados.”
.
We believe this argument ignores the fact that (1) Many of the input into local agriculture are imported, (2) Much of the imported food is so subsidized that it lands at costs BELOW the cost of local production. While the lack of competition in the distributive sector is definitely a factor it is in our view simplistic to view them as a major part of the problem of local agriculture withering, without a full examination of ALL of the factors involved.
.
That said we are happy to see input from some of the best brains “On The Hill”. Barbados is at a stage of it’s development where precious few countries have gone before. Input such as Prof. Howard’s is invaluable in helping both policymakers and the public understand the issues of the day.
Marginal

January 29, 2008

BFP – “Notes From The Margin Now Revealed To Be Part Of The BLP’s Grand Plan!!!”

Recent comment by BFP….

LMAO!!!!! 🙂

Marginal

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